The chief lobbying agency for Connecticut’s cities and towns unveiled its own job stimulus proposals Monday, asking lawmakers to streamline economic assistance grants, assign a municipal ombudsman to cut bureaucratic red tape out of each state agency, and form regional state-local economic development teams.

“Economic development and job creation in Connecticut occurs within towns and cities” James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said. “In order for state efforts to improve our economy to be successful, such efforts must be aligned and coordinated with local and regional efforts.”

Finley noted that state government already has been successful at streamlining its Local Capital Improvement Program, a grant that awards communities funds for improvements to public buildings and other municipal resources.

A similar approach should be taken, he said, to two major economic development grant programs: the Urban Act and the Small Towns Economic Assistance Program.

A common theme raised by both state and local officials as well as the private sector has been a need to expedite and clarify state government’s regulatory review process. CCM recommended Monday that for three of the state’s most crucial permitting departments — Energy & Environmental Protection, Transportation, and Economic & Community Development — applications should be deemed approved if they aren’t acted upon within 90 days.

Town leaders also want a “municipal ombudsman” assigned to each state agency “to interact regularly and directly with local governments to improve coordination for economic development, planning, transportation, etc.”

Another option for streamline the state’s regulatory process would be to allow communities to use licensed professional engineers to certify that work done on economic development projects has met state permit requirements.

“Municipalities are anxious to be strong partners in reviving the Connecticut economy,” Finley added, “but are often frustrated by state agency bureaucracies and unreasonable delays in getting permit and other approvals.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Leave a comment